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Andy Rowell is a third year Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) student at Duke Divinity School. His primary concentration is Church, Ministry, and Evangelism and his secondary concentration is New Testament. He blogs at Church Leadership Conversations.

What are your suggestions for books about church?

13 Ecclesiology Conversations: Making sense of the Guilds, Conversations, Silos and Books

I want to help “congregations” or “local churches” to thrive.  What I mean by that is that churches should be sitting under the Scriptures, practicing communion and baptism, living ethically like Jesus, and communicating the gospel to outsiders.  In my work, I draw upon what I have identified as 13 different types of books which all focus on this goal.  The problem is that I have had to discover these various conversations happening in different guilds, conferences, associations, and academies.  I think there is significant overlap in content among these books.  For the sake of clarity, I have limited my list to books written by professors for an academic audience rather than popular books by pastors written for other pastors.  I have given examples to show what I am thinking by each category.  My hope is that identifying the current silos will help people start talking to one another.    

  1. constructive ecclesiologies that explain the position of one denomination or tradition.  For example, I have been drawing upon:baptist ecclesiology (Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision by Steven R. Harmon; Tracks and Traces: Baptist Identity in Church and Theology by Paul S. Fiddes; Free Church, Free State: The Positive Baptist Vision by Nigel Wright; On Being the Church: Revisioning Baptist Identity edited by Brian Haymes, Ruth Gouldbourne, and Anthony R. Cross; Can These Bones Live?: A Catholic Baptist Engagement with Ecclesiology, Hermeneutics, and Social Theory by Barry Harvey; Systematic Theology (three volumes) by James McClendon); Very similar is free church ecclesiology (After Our Likeness by Miroslav Volf) and anabaptist ecclesiology (Royal Priesthood by John Howard Yoder).  Someone else will want to read in their tradition:  Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed, Wesleyan, Pentecostal/Charismaticecclesiology.  One should also be familiar with the denomination’s polity or book of order or book of discipline.  


2. ecclesiological surveys (An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical & Global Perspectives by Veli-Matti K?rkk?inen; Models of the Church by Avery Dulles; Household of God by Lesslie Newbigin).  All three of these books give very interesting and useful perspectives on the above range of ecclesiological perspectives. 


3. evangelical ecclesiology (Evangelical Ecclesiology: Reality or Illusion?edited by John Stackhouse; The Community Of The Word: Toward An Evangelical Ecclesiology edited by Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier;Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical Introduction by Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger).  ‘Evangelical’ means a trans-denominational phenomenon consistent with David Bebbington’s definition (biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, activism).  Thus churches from different traditions or denominations may have some things in common.

4. New Testament ecclesiology (Church, Ministry, and Sacraments in the New Testament by C. K. Barrett;  A Vision for the Church: Studies in Early Christian Ecclesiology. edited by Markus Bockmuehl  and Michael B. Thompson; Community Formation: in the Early Church and in the Church Today edited by Richard N. Longenecker; The Churches the Apostles Left Behind by Raymond Brown).  These books tend to have an anti-bureaucracy, anti-hierarchical flavor since they focus on the earliest Christian communities as depicted in the New Testament which did not have a lot of time to evolve into institutions.  These books describe the various ways the church has been described in the New Testament.  See also my Working bibliography of biblical studies books on ecclesiology

5. church planting (Church Planting by Stuart Murray; Planting Missional Churches by Ed Stetzer; Evaluating Fresh Expressions: Explorations in Emerging Church: Emerging Theological and Practical Models edited by Martyn Percy and Louise Nelstrop). Reflection on new local churches which is an issue all denominations are reflecting on.  There is thus enormous variety within this category.  See also the bibliographies byStetzer and Bryan Stone

6. emerging churches (Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger).  This category is not being talked about much anymore but it has catalyzed discussion of ecclesiology in all the other categories.

7. evangelistic churches (Evangelism after Christendom by Bryan Stone;Live to Tell by Brad Kallenberg; The Evangelistic Love of God and Neighbor by Scott Jones; The Study of Evangelism: Exploring a Missional Practice of the Church edited by Paul Chilcote and Laceye Warner).  These deal with the connection between the church and evangelism.

8. missional churches. (Missional Church edited by Darrell Guder; The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Lesslie Newbigin; The Ministry of the Missional Church by Craig Van Gelder).  These deal with thinking about the church as if it is a missionary church.

9. church leadership (Letters to New Pastors by Michael Jinkins; Pastor: The Theolog
y and Practice of Ordained Ministry
 by Will Willimon; Making Spiritual Sense: Christian Leaders As Spiritual Interpreters by Scott Cormode; Working the Angles by Eugene Peterson; Resurrecting Excellence: Shaping Faithful Christian Ministry by L. Gregory Jones and Kevin Armstrong; Faith As a Way of Life: A Vision for Pastoral Leadershipby Christian Scharen).  These deal with thinking about what kind of leadership helps churches to thrive.

10. church consulting (We Are Here Now: A New Missional Era by Patrick Keifert; Memories, Hopes, and Conversations: Appreciative Inquiry and Congregational Change by Mark Lau Branson).  This deals with the process by which churches are helped to assess themselves and move forward. 

11. practical theology (Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People edited by Dorothy C. Bass; For Life Abundant: Practical Theology, Theological Education, and Christian Ministry edited by Dorothy C. Bass and Craig Dykstra; Practical Theology by Richard Osmer).  This is a discipline that attempts to put the social sciences and theology in conversation for the good of the church. 

12. congregational studies (Studying Congregations: A New Handbookedited by Nancy Ammerman, Jackson Carroll, Carl Dudley, and William McKinney).  This is a field that is associated with the practical theology field and the church consulting field.

13. youth ministry (Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church by Kenda Creasy Dean).  Dean’s book is connect with practical theology.  But youth ministry books in general hope for thriving congregations which will attract and disciple youth.

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